First of all, what is it?
The meta description is an excerpt of ~ 160 characters, called an HTML tag, which summarizes the content of a page so that Google and other search engines show the meta description in the search results. Optimizing the meta description is a very important aspect of on-page SEO, as well as optimizing the click-through rate on search results.
Meta descriptions look like this:
Characteristics of a good meta description
Each article on meta descriptions will tell you some of them, but I tried to combine everything that is important to know and put together this 7 point list for you.
1. It should be about 135 to 160 characters
There is no “this number is right” in this. It depends on what Google adds to your search result and what it wants to display. Google might, for example, add the date to an article, which will reduce the number of characters. With that in mind, the general rule of thumb is that 135 characters is usually fine.
2. It should prompt action in an active tone of voice
Of course it should. You need to think of the meta description as an invitation to go to the page. You can’t just make a mock metaphor describing a non-existent, but still high level of qualification. That’s too dull a description. I’ll explain using some examples later.
3. It should include a call-to-action
“We have such and such a new product and you want it. Learn more!” This overlaps too much with the active voice, but I wanted to put the emphasis there. This is your sales copy, where your product is the linked page, not just the product on the page. Prompts like “Learn More,” “Book Now,” or “Free Trial” come to mind.
4. It could contain structured content
If you have a specific techie product, focusing on the technical specifications of the product might be a good idea. Manufacturer, SKU, price, and the like. If the visitor to your site is specifically looking for that product, chances are you won’t have to convince them. Something like the price will trigger the “click”. Note that you can also use “rich snippets” for this.
5. It must match the content
Very important. Google will find the meta description that encourages the visitor to click on the link. But only a call-to-action without link to your page can greatly harm your site. Afterwards, your bounce rate will probably increase, which is a bad idea. In short, the meta description should match the content of the page.
6. It should contain the main keyword
If the keyword users are looking for matches the text of the meta description, Google will be more likely to use it and highlight it in the search results.
7. The meta description should be unique
If your meta description is a copy of another one, Google’s user experience will be diminished. Even if the title of each page is different, all your pages will look the same since the meta descriptions will be the same. If you don’t know what to write, instead of making a duplicate, leave the space blank and Google will select a snippet of the page containing the keyword you are looking for. Visit Google Webmaster Tools > HTML Improvements or use Screaming Frog SEO Spider to check for duplicate meta descriptions.
We hope these points have helped you understand what makes a good meta description. For more information or tips on how and why to write the best meta descriptions, contact the nerds team!